Freecycle proves one man's ugly pink chair is another man's treasure
In many respects, ours is a throwaway society. We use untold disposable widgets: Razors, pens, lighters, napkins. Restaurants and households toss out foodstuffs like there's an unlimited supply. Cars break and are indifferently junked. Functional buildings are torn down and replaced with new ones. Lasting objects, underneath it all, seem to be an affront to this ever-revolving door, relentlessly enticing its consumers with new and better goods. As a result, landscapes are marred with dumps that teem with the discarded, both legitimate refuse and salvageable goods.
If you've ever tossed a perfectly good item knowing there was someone who'd have a use for it, you're not alone. In 2003 The Freecycle Network, a nonprofit that helps its users give and get discarded things, was started in Tuscon to "promote waste reduction ... and help save desert landscape from being taken over by landfills." Locally, FreecycleABQ has been operating for more than three-and-a-half years. It's current assemblage was initiated in December of 2004.
Worldwide, Freecycle operates through YahooGroups e-mail lists, each network communicating on a separate group. Outside Albuquerque proper, there are groups in Rio Rancho, Los Lunas, the East Mountains and elsewhere around the state. Anyone with e-mail can join, and groups function whereby members post offers and respond directly to the offerer. The offerer chooses the recipient and the two parties arrange a pickup. Anna Patten, owner and co-moderator of FreecycleABQ, says Freecycle also allows "wanted" posts because a request can sometimes remind users of something they have sitting around. "We do try to avoid propagating the idea that Freecycle is just about getting free stuff. That's a surprisingly common misunderstanding. Free-stuff-getting definitely happens constantly, but our focus is on starving the landfills by providing a way for people to keep from having to throw out useful items."
It's not unusual for FreecycleABQ to get 50 to 100 posts a day, which Patten says can be overwhelming. However, the organization continues to spread the word in the community, having most recently worked to make transitory college students aware of the resource. Meanwhile, the most needed and donated items, she says, are child-related. Beyond that, people seem to need furniture and small appliances, and lately bread-makers have been frequently offered and requested. The weirdest offer? "Frozen breast milk. Someone had saved up a lot more than she ended up needing. Don't see that one every day!"
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